INDIANAPOLIS – Jason S. Meyer, Ph.D., assistant professor of biology in the School of Science at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, will be honored by the largest eye and vision research organization in the world for work which one day may lead to reversal of blindness caused by macular degeneration, retinitis pigmentosa and other diseases of the retina.
The Association for Research in Vision and Ophthalmology (ARVO) will present Meyer with a 2011 ARVO-AFER/Merck Innovative Ophthalmology Research Award at the organization's annual meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on May 1.
Meyer is being recognized for a study he published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) in 2009. The paper, "Modeling Early Retinal Development with Human Embryonic and Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells" provides an important step toward the potential repair of damaged retinas by cells grown from a patient's own skin.
"In the PNAS study, we were able to produce significant numbers of photoreceptor cells and other retinal cell types which are lost in many blinding disorders. Our work could serve as a foundation for unlocking the mechanisms that produce human retinal cells," said Meyer, who co-directed the study when he previously worked at the University of Wisconsin.
A developmental biologist, he continues this promising line of research in his laboratory at the School of Science at IUPUI utilizing the recently (2007) developed and not yet common technology of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.
"Since iPS cells can be derived from patients with a specific known disease, these cells could help us study neurological disorders like those of the retina, the auditory system and other parts of the body, in novel ways at both the cellular and subcellular levels, bringing us closer to therapeutic approaches," said Meyer.
Now that he and colleagues have reprogrammed skin cells into stem cells that can become any cell type of the body, and then triggered the development of retinal cell types, Meyer believes that clinical trials and eventually treatment of retinal diseases with iPS cells is only a matter of time. Since they can be derived from the specific patient who needs them, use of iPS cells avoids the problem of transplant rejection.
Human iPS cells can be obtained from a single paper punch-hole size slice of easily accessible skin requiring only one or two stitches following the removal procedure.
Meyer will receive a $10,000 grant as the second prize recipient in the stem cell applications to eye disease category. The awards, open to researchers aged 45 years or younger who hold a doctoral degree, are presented biennially. This is only the second year in which an American has received the award.
Meyer joined the School of Science at IUPUI faculty in 2010, the second year consecutive year the School of Science recruited a record number of new faculty.
The School of Science at IUPUI is committed to excellence in teaching, research and service in the biological, physical, behavioral and mathematical sciences. The School is dedicated to being a leading resource for interdisciplinary research and science education in support of Indiana's effort to expand and diversify its economy. For more information visit www.science.iupui.edu.